Axel Alexander Olson: The Chicago Watershed

Axel Alexander Olson


from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Axel Olson is a third-year BFA student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago studying Architecture and Designed Objects. His interest in design developed alongside his artistic practice, as initial investigations into form and spacial relationships opened him to the theoretical and academic aspects of the discipline. Olson is pursuing an architecture that is drawn from rigorous research into its contingent contexts to develop spacial languages that operate in harmony with given programs.
Instagram: @axel._.olson


The Chicago Watershed - Cultural Center


Description of project:

The Chicago Watershed Cultural Center is situated at a critical point along the main branch of the Chicago River and its Northern Riverwalk. In an initial study of the site's context, the sonic and luminous spaces of the alternating bridge-bay condition on the newly revitalized South Riverwalk revealed an inverse relationship between sound and light during the day and night. As an investigation of the under-bridge condition, the project's massing was developed using a series of vertical and horizontal vaults that puncture the building creating avenues of circulation for light and activity throughout the program.

A formal language was then developed to sculpt interior and exterior spaces while mediating the views between them. As a result, the Chicago Watershed has a low-profile presence at the street level that houses exhibition space and a theater, with a roof plaza offering views of the iconic surroundings. As the building cascades down to the river level the voids divide the program into five individual spaces housing a library, archive, bookstore, fish hatchery, public bath and cafe. The landscape of the river's edge is then manipulated to interact directly with these programs and encourage public exploration throughout the site.